Formulating a problem statement is the most natural part of the problem solving process simply because it’s literally what we observe. What we observe could be data displayed graphically or some event in the real world. For example, where I live, we often observe vehicles speeding through our neighborhood (let’s call it Palm Desert). The problem statement comes natural:
Vehicles frequently speed through Palm Desert, along 23rd street.
That was easy, however, the statement is anemic in many ways. It reveals a speeding problem through a particular street/neighborhood, but it fails to communicate:
1) When did the speeding start? Has it always been that way, or was it just recently?
2) Is the speeding bi-directional or just one-way?
3) Why should I care? Is there safety concern? Are there children at risk?
These are the details of a problem statement that do not come naturally but are critical in formulating a good initial one vs. a mediocre one. If I were to rewrite this I could say,
Starting around the beginning of July, we have observed an increase in speeding cars through Palm Desert on 23rd street in either direction resulting in an increased risk of injury to children playing in the front yard.
Including a turn on date (when the issue surfaced) and quantifying the impact along with other important details will set you on the right path and increase the chance of successfully finding root cause to the issue at hand.
Next in the series is The Containment